Monday, June 8, 2009

What are the rules of the game of human flourishing?

Human flourishing, it seems to me, is a game that can only be played by people who are free to decide how they will live their lives and willing to accept the consequences of their decisions. There is no limit to the number of players. The game becomes more enjoyable as the number of players increases.

The aim of the game is for each player to "flourish". The game differs from most other games played by humans because the number of points scored by any one player does not necessarily diminish the number of points that can be scored by other players. Players may score additional points by helping other players.

The game commences when players agree to respect the lives and property of the other players. Each player inherits some cards and is dealt additional cards as the game progresses. Points scored depend also on the skills that the players develop as the game progresses and the opportunities available to them to benefit from cooperation with other players.

Players who trust each other can score many additional points by engaging in mutually beneficial voluntary cooperation. This cooperation can take a variety of forms including the formation of families and community groups which help people to live as they choose and to share gains and losses with relatives and friends. It also includes the creation of business ventures and the development of market institutions that enable players to benefit from specialisation and exchange.

Players can also score additional points by introducing new players. As well as providing additional opportunities for gains from trade this tends to reduce losses from theft by outsiders. The introduction of new players has some risks, however, because existing players do not know to what extent the new players can be trusted.

Players make up the rules of the game as they go along according to voting rules that they agree upon. Players usually make arrangements for provision of some public goods, including appointment of guardians who are permitted to use force to protect players from outsiders and cheaters. The appointment of guardians poses additional problems, however, in devising political rules that will discourage the guardians from plundering the players.

Unhappy players are permitted to voice their concerns and to form associations to lobby for changes to the rules. If players are unable to agree on rule changes, the political dice is rolled to determine the outcome.

Human flourishing is a relatively new game and is rarely played well. The biggest challenge for people who enjoy playing the game is to avoid rule changes that will convert it into a different game such as “serfdom” or “struggle for survival”.

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